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Seneca Nation announces settlement of longtime casino revenue dispute with NYS

 Nation President Matthew Pagels (center) flanked by 16 other Nation members, with the Sneca nation of Indians logo in the background.
Seneca Nation
Nation President Matthew Pagels (center) announces the settlement with New York State over casino revenue Wednesday.

The tangled relationship between New York State and the Seneca Nation took another turn Wednesday, when the two sides said they will finish out the current compact for the nation's three casinos and bargain a new one.

There is money and jobs at stake: the nation gets $40 million in disputed fees and perhaps $450 million will come to the state from the years of litigation over the Nation cutting off cash flow to Albany — and, in turn, Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca.

Nation President Matthew Pagels said the quarterly payments will resume under the terms of the original compact which expires at the end of next year. That compact lets the Nation's gaming operations continue to have 3,000 employees.

In this Seneca election year, Pagels told his nation and the Nation Council it's time to pay the money and move on.

"For four years, we have vigorously raised many compact concerns in multiple legal challenges. Rather than pursue continued legal action, we believe it's in the best interests of the Seneca Nation to address those important concerns through negotiation of a compact that will provide clarity on our obligations and, equally as important, the obligations New York State has to the Seneca Nation, in return," he said.

Pagels said the flow of cash from the three casinos has let the Nation build the future of enrolled Senecas, look ahead into the future and put the Nation on a more equal footing with Albany.

He suggested the settlement came about because the Nation's relationship with Gov. Kathy Hochul is different from that with former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"Most important, this Nation and New York State have agreed to begin good faith discussions on a compact within the next 60 days. This agreement marks a new chapter in the relationship between our governments," Pagels said. "Our gaming operations have created significant investments, economic impact and thousands of jobs. As a Western New Yorker, Governor Hochul knows and has seen this first hand. We're confident she and her administration will work in good faith with the Seneca Nation on a compact that is fair and equitable."

The Cuomo Administration and the Seneca Nation have been shouting at each other and battling up and down in all the levels of the court system for years.

Hochul issued a statement to WBFO:

"I am pleased to have reached an agreement for the resumption of payments on terms that serve both the State and the Nation and that benefit Western New York communities, and I look forward to beginning discussions toward a new compact," she said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.